Challenges and Strengths of Sports Women of Gilgit Baltistan

Safina Baig

An increasingly large number of women in Gilgit-Baltistan are well educated, socially mobilized and economically resourceful, despite of the fact that the societal structure is patriarchal with strong cultural, economic, and religious constraints. Women do not have opportunities to participate in sports but their engagement in sports has been steadily increasing due to sports events arranged by private schools and other organizations.

Eugene Miya said that people who live at high altitudes or mountains are stronger and live longer than those who live at low altitudes. Eugene Miya, Climber Nov 25, 2014

People from Gilgit-Baltistan, residents of some of the highest valleys, are mostly physically fit as compared to other regions of the country. Usually, females of this region do a lot of work within and outside the houses on daily basis, so they are physically fit. This fitness helps them achieve much in their career, especially in sports. Sports demand a lot of work and energy for the completion and success. It is also important to discuss why sports is always associated with men? Why women are not given much importance in sports?

Firstly, women of Gilgit Baltistan in the field of sports are dealing with different kinds of discrimination. For example, they are not paid well. Others are affected by the culture of bribery and politics. They don’t have facilities for practicing their games, and excelling further.

Secondly, Gilgit Baltistan government does not support women’s participation in sport. Girls are facing lack of facilities, lack of grounds or proper platform for them to demonstrate their talent. Players saw corruption in sports federation. Due to lack of opportunities, they are unable to utilize the best of their abilities. Lack of private space where girls can practice without being ogled at by men is also a hurdle. Though they don’t really feel challenged or discouraged by this but still this issue needs to be addressed so that more women could fulfill their wish by comfortably entering into their dream field. There is also lack of sufficient spaces to engage more women in sports.

Thirdly, in context of Gilgit Baltistan, there is very little representation of role models in field of sports. If they never seen any girl playing before it is very difficult for them to involve in sports without support or motivation .In every field role models are needed for motivation and support. If they are encouraged then nothing is impossible .As these are the pioneers of the sports field for the upcoming generation of girls who want to enter sports field.

Fourthly, due to patriarchal rigid structures, many girls are bound to follow the gender roles, stereotyping and discrimination through socialization. Individuals learn to behave in accordance with the expectations of others in the social order.  Most of the societies are very open-minded. They allow females in sports. But in some conservative societies and institutions or other religious groups within society create misinterpretations and prevent females from participating in sports. Girls tend to play indoor more often and tend not to play team or a competitive game, which limits their spatial experiences in outdoor setting.

Fifth: In Gilgit Baltistan women are considered weak. Parents do not give girls freedom due to fear for their safety. They fear to send their daughters to public places. Most of the girls have honor issues and they are very conscious about the respect of their parents. They do not play outside of their home because of safety issues like fear of being raped, harassed etc. These problems keep them limited in private spaces.

Sixth: In Gilgit Baltistan sports is generally associated with men. Boys are recognized and appreciated for their sporting prowess, whereas girls are acknowledge for their good grades. Gender roles are socially constructed and culturally specific behavior and expectations imposed on women (femininity) and men (masculinity). Parents encourage sons more than they encourage daughters to be physically active. Girls are often considered delicate and fragile. The girls who are more active, open minded, dedicated to an unusual activity (sports is considered an unusual activity for girls to be involved in in the area) and move freely are not considered good.

Seventh: Most of the families in GB are middle class. Girls are responsible for care-taking at home, including taking care of children, doing chores, cooking, and cleaning, or even working in fields in some rural areas. The girls who do not take part in household chores are also labelled as bad. These responsibilities restrict girls for participation in sports.

Eighth: In Gilgit Baltistan societies are culturally diverse. Women participation in sports is against its cultural, traditions and rituals. Due to rapid increase of women participation in sports in the last 6 years the cultural values of the region have been challenged. The dress code of sports women is against cultural system. Many people criticize and protest against the dress code of sports women. On social media, many people talk about sports girls wearing shorts and violating our culture. The culture of GB does not allow women to wear dresses feasible and convenient for sports. So women in sports have to live in Islamabad and Lahore to practice their field and avoid the cultural barriers.

Sports girls of the GB are multi-talented they are involved in more than one game .They are also well determined in sports and in education. They give equal importance to education and sports. All players are educated and students of different universities and colleges studying at sport scholarship in different subjects. They are students from Punjab University, Lahore College for girls, Gujarat University, Islamic university, Karachi University. They are studying physical education, arts, sociology, mass communication, ICS and physics. All are very much motivated for both education and sports.

Sports transform their personality and mentality. They feel changes in their lives for example they learn leadership qualities, teamwork, passions, tolerance, kindness, independence, learn decision making power, well disciplined, obedience, time management, confidence, acceptance, self-defense, dealing with different situations, got more job opportunities, got respect, and economically, physically and mentally strengthened.

Sports girls have the courage to accept failures and not lose hope. They have also mastered in the art of learning from failures in this period. Sports have made them mentally, physically and emotionally stronger.

Sports is closely linked with women empowerment. Sports plays basic role in women empowerment especially in the present era. Girls from Gilgit Baltistan believe that they have empowered because of participation in sports. They believe that sports is only factor or opportunity to get women empowered.

Sports women of the GB helped the new comers in all respects. And still they are striving their level best for the active and positive involvement of girls in the field. They have been arranging seminars and training camps for awareness, practice and selection. After the process, they have brought more than 60 girls from Gilgit Baltistan and provided them with opportunities to study on sports scholarship in different universities. Now they are doing their studies as well as performing good performance in the field of sports. All girls’ respect, motivate, encourage and buck up each other. They admire and appreciate talent. All sports girls are patriots they love Gilgit Baltistan. They respect and feel connected to the soil of their origin.

They got motivation from coaches, family, self-belief, community centers and friends. Women, in the sports field, are facing challenges due to religion throughout the world but women of Gilgit Baltistan get this support or motivation from their Religion.

Diana Baig, the daughter of Gilgit-Baltistan,  is the world’s second player playing internationally in football and cricket, second only to Ellyse Alexandra Perry .Ellyse Alexandra Perry was the world’s first women playing cricket and football simultaneously at the international level. At the age of 16 Ellyse started her carrier and Diana started at the age of 17. Diana is not only a role model for the women of Gilgit Baltistan, but also for women all over the world.

Women of Gilgit Baltistan are talented in the field of sports and they have God gifted skills. I recommend that the government and other organizations work to polish the women sports enthusiasts’ skills, facilitate them, and provide the facilities and platform, so that more women are tempted to join the struggle instead of wasting their talents because of the fear of society. It will not only benefit them but also the community, our country and the world. It will provide them with an opportunity to contribute towards the development of the world.

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